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Is NASA tinkering with the color settings

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 18, 2004

Is NASA tinkering with the color settings on the photos from Mars?.

Reader comments

Sean TevisJan 18, 2004 at 2:57PM

Why is the NASA doing this? There might be several reasons. Maybe this anomaly on Mars has something to do with it:

The color-correcting sleuthing is brilliant, but does this bit about the golf ball anomoly make sense to anyone?

JCJan 18, 2004 at 2:59PM

Fascinating. Can’t wait to see the first NASA-conspiracy blogs spring up…

LeifJan 18, 2004 at 6:35PM

The link died :(

DaveC426913Jan 18, 2004 at 7:19PM

Whole site is busted. Sure would be interested in further reading on this.

pbJan 18, 2004 at 7:46PM

The golf ball thing didn’t make sense to me at all. But just because some of the arguments are out-there doesn’t mean the color-switching thing isn’t worth investigating.

Stefan JonesJan 18, 2004 at 8:00PM

If you look at the unaltered photos with polarized lenses, you can see a discarded Zero-Point Energy module the Grays left behind when they landed in Gusev back in ‘71 to ditch Elvis Presley’s worn-out second body.

dowingbaJan 18, 2004 at 8:17PM

They altered the photos to look like a 404 page! (Sorry, I had to say it.)

AlainaJan 18, 2004 at 9:06PM

There is an identical page at this link:

http://xfacts.com/spirit2004/index.html

and similar pages:

http://mars.spherix.com/spie2003/SPIE_2003_Color_Paper.htm
http://www.enterprisemission.com/colors.htm

(sorry, I’m not sure how to make those links)

Michael SavoyJan 18, 2004 at 9:22PM

The site has been taken down but you can still read the entire bizarre article via Google’s cache of the site posted at this Metafilter thread.
http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/30805

jkottkeJan 18, 2004 at 10:15PM

I changed the 404 link to one of the links suggested by Alaina.

FirasJan 18, 2004 at 11:10PM

Does the author know that the rover doesn’t even have a full colour camera? Nitwit.

donald tettoJan 19, 2004 at 12:04AM

Sean, my thoughts exactly. I thought the page was a fairly interesting analysis, and I myself was wondering why — and then the golfball question completely out of nowhere, no explanation, not even some crack-conspiracy-theory.

As far as the rover combining the black and white plates to create the final color print: so what? The author is arguing that the colors have been edited, but the point of this is that the colors are not accurate. At risk of sounding like a crackpot myself, NASA obviously knew the correct color calibration from the “earth shots” so any discrepancies on the Mars shots should have been color corrected back to the normal — I would imagine this would not be extremely difficult given given the rather bright blue, green, red, and orange swatches on the sundial panel.

dowingbaJan 19, 2004 at 3:06AM

I was assuming the golfball picture at the end was a joke?

danJan 19, 2004 at 2:55PM

why in the world would the rover not have a colour camera?

bobJan 19, 2004 at 4:59PM

man, i’ve been looking for that golfball.

FirasJan 19, 2004 at 10:48PM

Dan, the rover has wavelength filters, not a color CCD. The pictures are created using band math.

http://athena.cornell.edu/pdf/tb_pancam.pdf

It’s not quite as simple as taking a picture on the beach or something.

rgJan 21, 2004 at 3:01AM

For those interested in such things, Vision and Art: the Biology of Seeing is a great read. (more)
Every CCD is an array of light-sensitive diodes (actually biased to the blue wavelengths), with RGB filters on top of each. Film is much the same, with layers of emulsion sensitive to particular wavelengths, different films ‘tinker’ with the wavelength reception (velvia=saturation,portra=eyelike). You generally use a Macbeth color checker to calibrate.
The sundial colors are almost neon because by definition neon is a very tight wavelength of color, allowing software to triangulate for calibration.

KevinJan 21, 2004 at 3:31PM

According to this BBC article, “Colours in the [images from Spirit] have been adjusted but scientists have not yet determined the ‘true’ colour of the Martian rocks.”

nobodyJan 21, 2004 at 7:07PM

The normally blue starscape - or “meatball” - that forms the Nasa logo has turned a muddy red. And blue insulating foam surrounding cables on the lander has turned bright pink. - from Kevin’s BBC article.

My link above explains exactly why this happens.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.

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